Rory Carroll. Jon Lee Anderson. Richard Lapper. The big guns.


Courtesy of The Frontline Club.

These are serious people, and it’s a good discussion, but one thing that struck me as badly misguided is the treatment of Barrio Adentro.

The consensus around the table is that Barrio Adentro was a good and noble venture let down by fucked up implementation. Rhetorical homage to Barrio Adentro seems to operate here as the price of entry into the discussion: the dues you have to pay to establish your bona fides as a non-ranting-reactionary-nutter with the standing to be taken seriously as you hold forth on Venezuela.

Well, pardon my French but: bull-fucking-shit.

Barrio Adentro is a program whereby Venezuela pays for $4 worth of medical services with a $100 bill. That is, out of every $100 Venezuela sends the Castro Bros., perhaps $4 reaches the pockets of the actual doctors providing the medical care ostensibly being bought. A cool 96% effective (not marginal) tax rate.

Somehow, the Castros get away with pressing tens of thousands of their people into indentured servitude in a scheme to bankroll the hemisphere’s final remaining outright dictatorship. That this, this got picked out as the program that all right-thinking people must humbly defer to and declare good and worthy and noble is a tiny tragedy in its own right.

No, Barrio Adentro is not ok. However much of a propaganda coup it may have been – and, y’know, credit where credit is due – Barrio Adentro amounts to the wholesale expropriation of the labour power of a whole generation of Cuban professionals: a state sponsored human trafficking ring.

Listen, I fully understand the need to find symbolic markers distance yourself from the farther fringes of anti-chavista extremism. But it’s deeply regrettable that you’ve chosen Barrio Adentro as the place to do that.

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  1. And that’s not the half of it. Barrio Adentro has been praised to the skies by the Panamerican Health Organization. But it violates a number of the principles the self-same PHO enunciates as vital to the adequate provision of primary health care. These include sustainability, collaboration between the public and private health-care sectors, accountability and a proper legal and institutional framework. Even more serious than journalists falling for this claptrap is when it’s promoted by the very people who are supposed to provide professional analysis.

    • They’re basically endorsing indentured slavery here.

      Here’s another beef: if the Frontline Club wanted to do a pre-post-mortem on the Chávez era, couldn’t they have invited at least *one* Venezuelan to the panel?

      Rory and Anderson are great (I’m not familiar with the other guy), but it strikes me as a tad offensive that three musiús are out there telling us what our country is like. It’s not their fault, obviously, but still…

  2. The idea of having direct medical attention given to barrio inhabitants is praiseworthy in itself , but what is seldom mentioned is how second rate and flawed the medical attention of the Cuban ‘doctors’ often is. Venezuelan physicians ( even many which work with the regime) and which also see these patients are full of stories of the poor professional level of attention cuban doctors often exhibit , they misdiagnose the disease , or are totally unable to handle the scans so that these must be discarded , how they write recipes for children using adult dossages that can be fatal , how they dump the convulsing victims of their malpractice on local hospitals so as to avoid being blamed for their condition or death etc etc. A few short stories to show what I mean. The hospital militar , the main barrio adentro hospital will not accept scans taken by cuban doctors because of their defects , the head of a showcase barrio adentro facility in Chuao goes to a private clinic to get scanned and treated a private ailments because she cant trust the cuban doctors who having the best scan machines dont know how to handle them , a women with a seriously infected foot is told to soak it in tea water ( which a local doctors knows will lead to her developing a gangrene of her foot) , a convulsing teenager ( the result of the cuban doctors failure to understand his condition) is sent at death doors to a local government clinic to get him out of their ‘books’ . This despite the fact that very often the cuban barrio adentro facilities are much better equipped and maintained than the local medical facilities which lack even the essentials. I suspect that many of the so called cuban doctors are not really full fledged doctors but a kind of medical assistant which the soviets had in their system called the ‘feldsman’ whom the soviets used to support the real doctors in their labours. Someday a Venezuelan team of doctors should investigate and issue a report on how welll or badly the cuban doctors in barrio adentro performed . The recipes these doctors write are often full of errors af it they were not fully familiar with many medicines of more recent generation !!. The need for barrio adentro medical facilities is there , but the way its been handled is nothing but a swindle .

    • Same thing hapened to my daughter in 2007.
      Infected cut on foot.”Soak it in black tea”
      Must have been the same idiot “Doctor”
      Black tea, my ass!
      I spent 6 hours waiting at the Caurimare clinica so a real doctor could diagnose it correctly.
      Antibiotics and a tetanus shot did the trick.

  3. These folks are the perfect example of ;

    “An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field.”
    Niels Bohr

    Sometimes weighty pauses between words seem to substitute for actual deep thinking.

    How dangerous it is to know only a little and then use one’s prestige to opine, instead of one’s real experience and wisdom.

  4. It’s this silly attitude of assuming that throwing the poor a few crumbles and leftovers of the oil-fueled bacchanal enjoyed by the ruling elite is a) anything to celebrate as somehow empowering and liberating for the masses, b) a revolutionary innovation of the Chávez era, as if the Cuarta República had not been doing exactly the same crap during all their years in power.

  5. As with so much else in Venezuela, the devil resides in the details of Barrio Adentro. The InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights pointed out several years ago that there are no formal criteria for eligibility for the programme; the informal, but widely applied formula is: “Do you support Chavez?” Barrio involves forcing poor people to support one person and one party at the risk of losing nationally-funded healthcare benefits. It is a subversion of democratic norms.

    Why do journalists still find something good to say about it? Because they think undemocratic governments which offer politicized health care are at least providing health care, which predecessor governments didn’t.

      • It may be that there has been a demonization of Fourth Republic health programmes in order to make Barrio Adentro look better. There certainly are a lot of statements about the poor in the barrios “not having access to healthcare before Chavez.” It is an empirical question, though, and one I’m not able to answer.

      • too bad Rory turns a critical observation into an indirect, soft-pedalled one: “The cost of Barrio Adentro vis-à-vis public hospitals…”

  6. I’d just add that to me, the way you establish your bona fides as a non-ranting lunatic without doing violence to truth is by being very straightforward and very honest on one point: millions of poor Venezuelans love Chávez. Not because they get a sandwich in return for going to a rally (they’d go anyway), not because they’re scared to lose their jobs, not because they have some cost-benefit calculus about petrospending in the back of their minds. They love him genuinely, in a heartfelt way, because he makes them feel good, valued and important.

    THERE’S an uncomfortable truth for you.

    • But which is that truth whereof you speak? A) That the feel-good factor trumps all other facts-on-the-ground or B) that so many folk are thus afflicted, i.e. are in eyes-open denial of fact in order to coast along on the feel-good factor? Either option bespeaks success in the “bamboozle to the max” category, not good for any society’s health at all at all: it bodes ill all round.

      • Truth = Empowerment is real. That feeling that Chávez gives people is a real, powerful thing. People who’d been taught by years of neglect that they didn’t matter, that nothing that happened to them was important to anyone who did matter came, through him, to feel deeply that they do matter, that they are valuable, that they are powerful, that they are part of history, hell, that they’re on the winning team in history. That feeling, spread through millions of Venezuelans, is a history-making development in our country. Bamboozlement is in the eye of the beholder – empowerment is real.

        • Empowerment is real? It’s a feeling for heaven’s sake it doesn’t put arepas on your plate. Any whiff of conviction that it does would fall into the bamboozlement area.

          • Go spend an afternoon chatting with rank-and-file chavistas and tell me it isn’t real. Their entire understanding of their place in the world and in society has been turned upside down. The political culture has shifted in a fundamental way for millions.

            Stepping back, it’s precisely because it’s so hard for people like you to accept that this is a real thing that it works as a Bona Fide establisher!

          • “People like you” ????

            Sorry Toro, that it not an argument.You don’t know Neddie, and I really think that you missed his more subtle point

          • So far as I can tell, Toro and Neddie agree. They are just describing different things without realizing it. The Hindu parable of the blind men and the elephant comes to mind.

          • With all due respect, I think it is less about empowerment per se rather than it is a matter of engagement. I know it is a quibble about syntax more or less, but I feel that, to paraphrase a different chavista grandee, a “sensation of empowerment” and a “sensation of engagement” are two entirely different things.

            I’m reminded of a quote from Barbara Tuchman about medieval foot compared to the cavalry: “Despised as ineffective, they were ineffective because they were despised.” By giving them a perceived stake, Chavez rode the masses to victory because they believed that HE believed in them.

          • You can get a sense of empowerement from taking cocaine , or from getting drunk , or from belonging to a criminal gang, or( if you are a bully) from beating up someone weaker than yourself . Hitler gave his followers a sense of empowerement, Jim Jones gave his followers a sense of entitlement , lots of sectarian ideologies or religions give their followers a sense of empowerement , of being powerful ,of being mighty of being better and superior to a scorned demonized dehumanized group of human beings whom they can then take pleasure in victimizing humiliating insulting and mistreating . Feeling superbly powerful is the most primitive narcicistic kick of all . Thats why narratives that make you feel important and strong while spurring you to scorn and loath others are so popular throughout history even if they are false . There are many ways of feeling empowered and quite a few of them are perverse . I see little to admire in the way Chavez deludes his followers into to feeling empowered through speeches and rethoric that instill in them a loathing for Mr Chavez demonized adversaries , a glamorization of violence and a hubristic sense that all can be achieved with minimal effort or organization . A sense of empowerment gives people a big head and a heart inflamed with what often are obscenely primitive feral passions. Of course a sense of empowerement feels good , it energizes ones emotional energies to fever pitch , it makes one want to engage in whatever activity most melodramatically expreones ones righteous superiority . !!

          • Congratulation! You changed someones mind. It’s mine, but it’s still something ;).

            I think there was empowerment, but just within small circles of dedicated barrio theoreticians, not in the wide-spread sense that those same groups would like us to believe.

            Yes, engagement is what happened at that level.

          • It does put food on a plate. Empowerment affects performance measurably and immensely. There are many studies showing this, but I’d point out early education studies the most.

          • Point taken. Absolutely. No problemo. If you have a job. But what is the performance in which the empowered are engaged? Please don’t cite Coppelia ice cream, vertical hen-coops, downtown hydroponics, arepa routes, ladys’ banks, or the rest of the soclialist debris littering Venezuela’s recent past.

            And, while we’re at it, as it were, how come nobody has mentioned the irrevocably associated virulent animosities so efficiently sown along with that empowerement?

          • But notice what’s happened – in the process of being right you’ve defeated the whole point of the exercise, which is displaying that you have the capacity for critical distance from the material it takes to note realities that run counter to your personal position.

          • Sorry Toro, but you cannot have the cake and eat it too. You cannot sustain the idea that Chávez has become an all-encompassing power that tries to control everything (the autocrat hypothesis) while at the same time implying that the people are empowered.

            To feel empowered is not the same as being empowered. They can feel included and taken care of, but that does not equal to be the one calling the shots. As I said somewhere else, the power transfer that alledgely took place when Consejos Comunales started was nothing but smoke and mirrors. There’s nothing the common folk can do to change their current situation but ask for a favor from the strong man. Is that empowerment? If that’s so, I guess we’ll have to get rid of our dictionaries right away…

          • neddie, just 15min of random teenagers playing World of Warcraft had effects on them that kept them scoring better on tests for hours than those who weren’t chosen to play the 15min. The effect is attributed to WoWs ‘resulting feeling of “empowerment”, which, even if you classify it as a placebo effect, is real, measurable, and quite immense.

            Even for those without a job, a feeling of empowerment can make the difference between getting out of bed in the morning, or even getting hopes up, thus doing better at, if attempting to get a job.

            Going back to early intervention, consider the effects on children if they feel that they are important, versus if they feel tthat hey will amount to and count for nothing.

            You may want to take a look at “Who’s Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics” while keeping the topic of the effects of the feeling of empowerment in mind:


        • Empowerment? You should use the word more carefully. After all, Hugo Chávez is the only guy that’s been empowered during the last 14 years. His followers, on the ohter hand, got no nothing but make-believe empowerment. Or using your word, “bamboozlement”…

          I could be a huge fan of La Vinotinto. I could think of myself as the best football coach ever. But I’m not the one calling the shots. That’d be Rafael Esquivel or César Farias.

          Otro gallo cantaría si los Consejos Comunales no fueran más que una farsa… That’d be a game changer.

          • EX Torres,

            Do you want to be empowered by the truth or by lies?

            If you are feeling empowered by lies, could it truthfully be called ” empowerment “?

          • From:

            “Its modern use originated in the civil rights movement, which sought political empowerment for its followers. The word was then taken up by the women’s movement, and its appeal has not flagged. Since people of all political persuasions have a need for a word that makes their constituents feel that they are or are about to become more in control of their destinies, empower has been adopted by conservatives as well as social reformers. ”

            So, firepigette, to answer your questions, I would want to be empowered by the truth, and, yes, it can still truthfully be called “empowerment” if based on lies. Ask any doctor if a placebo effect is real or not.

          • Ex Torres,

            I would say that a person can feel empowered but they are NOT empowered and there is a big difference here.

    • This, my friend, is the best thing I’ve read here in a while and it is spot on. Chavez made millions of people feel they mattered and they repay this with unconditional love and appreciation. This is why I felt the “corazon” campaign was so good. It got to the essence of what is/was happening.

    • And an even more uncomfortable truth would be to admit that the reason Chávez was able to exploit the democratic aspirations of the poor in order to gain immense power for himself is fundamentally because of how horrendously corrupt and unjust the Cuarta República version of democracy was. “Champions of the poor” never emerge in a vacuum — they are the inevitable result of the poor not having access to established constitutional means for redressing their grievances.

      • Chavez was elected in 1998, a year that saw oil go down to $10/bbl. There was less money to spread around. I doubt the poor were as dissatisfied in the early 1980s when oil was much higher. The fall in the price of oil from the boom years of the 1980s meant there was less money to distribute.

        • Sure, but it’s got to do much more with the *structural* issues of the economy and society than the ups and down of the business cycle. Even in the craziest years of Saudi Venezuela the poor were second-class citizens with basically null opportunities to achieve real, sustainable economic ascendancy, while a few well-connected cronies gorged most of the oil revenue in an orgy of rampant corruption. Not that Chávez has changed that in any significant way, but people somehow feel that if real change is not possible, at least it’s “one of them” who’s doing the gorging this time. That’s the sort of inevitable, twisted logic you get out of the enormous resentment the masses accumulate over so many years of exclusion and hardship. It’s the same phenomenon that paved the way to power for any other populist demagogue in history from Julio Caesar to Hitler to Juan Perón. Chávez is no exception to the rule.

          • A US academic working in Oriente University arround 2003 had the view that Chavez came to happen when the price of oil having fallen so much in the 90’s that ‘give away’ populist policies couldnt be kept up CAP decided a reform was needed putting short many popular ‘give away’ populist policies ( very low gasoline prices , getting rid of the 10.000 reposeros in the Public Ports Administration etc ) and attempting to create a Venezuela that worked like a rational a market economy . Poor people felt betrayed (remember they think of Venezuela as a limitless rich country ) and sought a change that fed the fantasy of being taken care of by an all provident government led by a strong righteous macho figure who would bring order and stop corruption . While the corrupt cliques of the 4th Republic always fought to keep their piece of the pie , the more modest Venezuelans were not forgotten (populism was strong in those years) . The problem was money. If the oil prices during the 90’s had been those of the last 10 years there would have been no Chavez

          • Quico used to have a link here for a nice historical summary on how we got here. Always thought it should be required reading and not just for PSFs

    • This a hundred times. Much of the opposition intelligentsia have gone from chronically understimating the size of the Chavez “voto duro” to being genuinely baffled by how their models of what makes chavistas tick (el bozal de arepa, innate criminality, eudomarsantism, even the lottery effect) continue to prove inadequate. They may be as far off the mark as the carpetbagging PSFs that have swooped in to frame the chavez era as a blow against imperialism, a workers jihad. To use NorskeDiv’s image, the blind men aren’t even touching the elephant here.

      • Ratonfilo/Wlad from your posts I gather that there is an ‘explanation of how we got where we are’ which those who entered the blog more recently have missed and which would enlighten people looking on different ‘models of what makes chavistas tick’ on what is the true model. Is this in some past blog which we can access.? Can you please help us find it?? Also forgive my ignorance but what is a PSF? thank you

        • I was referring to this:

          It is part of the blog’s beginner’s guide. Mind you, I didn’t call it an explanation but a narrative summary. As the author put it, it is (part of) the necessary historical context that is known to the venezuelan readers of the blog (at least those of us of a certain age) but not to most PSFs and foreign pundits and hacks.

          As to the term PSF (can anyone remember who coined it?), it stands for “Pendejos sin fronteras” (“Stooges without borders”) and refers to the well-intentioned first-world left that, perhaps deprived of the above-mentioned knowledge of modern venezuelan history, are keen to defend the Chavez revolution fitting to it a classic Chomsky-style narrative (e.g. the kind of people that truly believe that venezuelan public hospitals and literacy programs did not exist before 1998).

          As to your use of the term “true model”, I meant nothing of the sort. I was just remarking that it is common in oppo-land (and not just the fringes) to completely ignore (or at best discount) Quico’s simple observation that “They love him genuinely, in a heartfelt way, because he makes them feel good, valued and important”. My opinion is that the view that all chavistas are being bribed for their votes is as wrong as the view that they are antiimperialist revolutionaries.

          • Wlad /Ratonfilo. Thank you for your prompt and very helpful clarification , the historical part I dont think I need ( Im Venezuelan and not so young ) , the PSF is an ingenious monicker but no way could I guess at what it meant from simply reading it. As for FT view that Chavez ability to make his most humble followers feel ‘good , valued and important ‘ is one of the main springs of his popularity , its one I totally share .I wouldnt say that the Pinata part is irrelevant , but the real glue is on his playing to their hunger for feeling loved and part of something Great Strong and Mighty. Being invited to the Pinata is just proof that they are loved and mighty . Sorry that the reference to the true model sounded facetious, My apologies.

    • Praising the ‘sensation of empowerment’ and praising Barrio Adentro is the same thing. Is just looking at the surface and disregarding the total package. They’re both apparently good things that ostensibly benefit the people, specially those that support Chavismo. But in reality is all based on smoke and mirrors, is the product of propaganda and the final result is more wrongs than rights.

  7. Quico, for many, many Venezuelans Barrio Adentro was more than OK. It brought important, tangible benefits. Even by 2011, the last time I tramped around barrios asking about it, the system was clearly degraded but still appreciated, still bringing benefits. Some Cubans fled, yes, but plenty others stayed. When so much else in the revolution was ephemeral and imagined the clinics were real. I’ve never seen a proper cost benefit analysis, so we’re all groping in the dark a bit, but that $4/$100 line sounds extreme. On paper it’d be easy to design an alternative system with better value for money, but meantime flawed and all I’d take BA.

    • Not to torture the human trafficking analogy too much, but that’s a bit like asking the johns in your neighbourhood if they appreciate the services they receive from the neighborhood prostitutes. I’m certain they do, but that is emphatically not the point of the system they participate in – the point is to line a pimp’s pocket.

      • Getting free gas is great if you’re a driver, Rory, and it’s also very popular. It doesn’t make it good public policy.

    • “but meantime flawed and all I’d take BA”; against which alternative? No BA? A BA-configured but transparent system with verifiably qualified pratictioners and no “chavista or not” parameters grafted on? Whilst many may feel there were real benefits, what was the downside cost, not so much in exaggerated funding (daylight robbery, in the real world) but in uncounted and unaccountable misdiagnoses, lives lost and cases hurriedly dumped elsewhere for ‘rescue treatment’ and all the grey-areas in between?

  8. Barrio Adentro was launched by Freddy Bernal in the aftermath of the 2002 coup against Chávez. The programm was around in government offices, sponsored by Rodríguez Araque, an old friend of Havanna’s, but nobody took notice by then. Bernal told in the TV show “La lámpara de Diógenes”, that, after the coup, he realized the government lacked enough political penetration among the poor to guarantee a strong enough response to destabilization. He got word of the programm to offer primary medical attention and proposed to run a “pilot” test in Caracas, where he was a mayor. It worked, and incredibly so. Chávez was enthused; he not only extended the programm to the whole country, but it was the beginning of his “management” by missions. Mision Barrio Adentro was the first mission and it saved Chavez revolution. Its benefits were undeniable, I visited a couple of those places. Yet, the modern slavery point made by Quico is really too often neglected (always, actually).

  9. The nurturant and emotional effect in Chavez partisans of his melodramatized messages gestures and measures , however flawed farcical or illusory is real and is the mainstay of the support his regime continues to recieve among the poorests even as more and more failures come to cause scandal . Reminds one of the old spanish saying ´contigo pan y cebolla’ . It is based partially on a well sold delusion that things will continue to improve eventually and that Chavez partisans are proud heroic participants in a heroic struggle against imperialism and its stooges , the regimes many crass failures and corruptions and blunders are overlooked and ignored because the illusion however worn is still a potent force in their ravaged primitive minds. You cannot counter such effect with denunciations or good investigative reporting or with reasoned assesment of the regimes dysfunctional performance. Still there is a growing percentage of ‘soft partisans’ whose faith in the regime does get eroded as the governments terrible performance gets increasingly revealed. But FT’s view that Chavez partisans attachment to his cause has a highly emotional component which is blind to the regimes many failures is true and poses a challenge which is not easily or simply overcome.

  10. Actually in all serious I think Quico’s point here is well thought out.

    One of our biggest problems has always been the context in which the International debate takes place.

    The damage that it does is in calculable.When you have biased premises, underlying the whole debate that only allows for marginal criticism of Chavismo, and insists that” its heart is in the right place”, real understanding of what’s happening in Venezuela is unattainable.

    • If that only happened abroad. In Venezuela we still have the same non-response to the whole Barrio Adentro thing. Yeah, BA is nice and all, but the hospital are FUBAR after 14 years of chavista mismanagement. And what about that diseases that were erradicated long ago but came back with a vengeance thanks to chavismo? Oh, right, the goverment decided stopped publishing any epidemiological data a few years back to “solve” the problem. The political problem, that is. And not a single opposition spokeman talks about that. And not a single serious proposal to replace or improve it either. The closest thing we got was some obscure reference to a health care program in Miranda during the presidential campaign

  11. Empowerment means , being able to miss work and not be fired , being able to take over a farm , a busines, a building , something owned by others and not being ejected from it , getting paid for participating in a mission without having to do any real work , being praised and catered to as great and strong without doing anything to earn the praise , being able to stop paying rent on the house you live in and not being forced out , not having to pay for the electricity and water you consume , getting free godies simply for being a regime loyalist or for working on ‘make believe jobs´, recieving medical attention without paying for it or having contributed to its maintenance through social security payments . Living in a soft cocoon of regulated prices where everything is lavishly subsidised by the regimes largesse or its expoilation of private business production costs.
    This empowerement we could call the ´pinata’ empowerement but there is another one which we might call the ´wizard of oz’ empowerement which is more an induced illusion than a reality , it is born when one can identify with a leader that projects absolute power and which wastes no gesture to assure you that when he acts he acts as your alter ego, in love of you , in fact that in a magic way he is you ( Chavez eres tu ) , his actions are pregnant with threats and violence and insults against a squalid scorned humbled enemy , so that it is you exercising the grand power which is made dramatically manifest through that violence and megalomaniacal bullying . The decisions of course are taken by one single man and his clique of favourites but since he is you , you feel powerful , mighty , invincible . The feeling of empowerement is there and a very gratifying one it is but does not change the substantive reality of your condition as a happless unfortunate unproductive parasite slob.
    The cuban medics get paid little in Venezuelan terms but in cuban terms they earn lost more than they would in cuba specially as they thus get access to those precious foreign currency items which make the difference between a miserable life and one which is lined with some fringe comforts , so for them its not too bad , of course Castro gets the Lions share of what they are paid for!! Paradoxically socialist exploitation can be harsher than capitalist exploitation !!

    • BB: Good stuff!! I believe that for Venezuelan masses the Pinata Empowerment is more important than the Wizard Of Oz Empowerment, which means, unfortunately, the continuation of the same old same old, including elections, until the money really runs too short/out.

  12. #27FDeRevolución #27FDeRevolución #27FDeRevolución #27FDeRevolución #27FDeRevolución #27FDeRevolución #27FDeRevolución #27FDeRevolución

    • Why hasn’t anyone been charged with a crime for the Caracazo, Its not like the soldiers who killed innocent people on that date today hold important positions in the PSUV or anything so they have immunity for being prosecuted for their acts… Wait…

  13. Cort, you are an idiot.

    Barrio Adentro must have been studied to death in every public health department in every large university in the world, and last I read into the subject, which granted was a while ago, the conclusions were in the nature of tepid praise along the lines of: good idea, badly executed, mixed but on balance positive outcomes. Part of the Barrio Adentro brain trust is resident in Canada, so perhaps I suffer from some bias in that regard.

    The anecdotal horror stories are legion- I know doctors in Venezuela who can tell plenty. I’ve seen some of it first hand, and they look disasterous. In any event, I would be interested to know what the health outcomes are, currently, but appreciate that access to accurate data might be a difficulty.

    I have to say, the slavery analogy seems over the top, as is the comparison with nazi forced labour referenced in the article you linked. Look, everyone in Cuba in a sense is engaged by the state in a kind of forced labour (or forced lassitude) if you want to take the analogy far enough. The problem I have heard mostly in terms of hours of work performed is that these guys are never around, or hop on a bus to Colombia the first opportunity that arises. (I don’t blame them a bit.)

    In short, I’d be interested to know what all those big brains who study this stuff full time have to say about Barrio Adentro. Cort and GAC, I am not talking about you.

  14. JL Anderson appears to be oh-so knowledgeable on things Venezuelan. And there’s no doubt he’s got the lingo down, after displaying a formidable micro view on several social breakdowns. But I wonder why on earth he would question how the thug culture that rules the streets ever came about. Did he not listen to early Aló Presidente’s, when Chávez was whipping the middle class on up, threatening and inciting violence from the streets, motorizados included? Did he not look into the underserviced and underfunded police force? That’s just two explanations, JLA, on how the thug culture came about, particularly in Caracas.

  15. This is a very thoughtful discussion. Thanks for posting it. What might strike some listeners as offensive or blinkered is I think, just the sound of the serious left talking amongst itself, and testifying to the failure of Chavismo. This perspective may not be particularly interesting or enlightening for many, but it has the hallmarks of reliability and truth, in part because it comes from people who in spite of their obvious experience and powers of observation evidently held in themselves some hope to be able to say otherwise.

  16. This article starts off with the extraordinary assertion that “these are serious people.” In what way is Rory Carroll serious?


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